Lingraphica is an audio-assistive device company. They provide tablet devices to people who struggle to communicate verbally. They needed an illustrator (that’s me) to redesign their imagery and bring their app to life.
Icon Design • Illustration • Design Systems
Mike Bord, Kushboo Panchal, Jess Vicidomini
2023, January to May (4 months)
In 4 months, I created a brand new icon style system from scratch, and delivered 1,501 individual concepts.
Why they brought me on
The product design team at Lingraphica needed an illustrator to fix the visuals they had for years. Users had told them the images should be more diverse, and the general style of the visuals were inconsistent. My job was to unify the look and feel of all the images and create a beautiful and sustainable icon system.
It’s like cooking a new recipe, but with hex codes
I began by testing out different icon styles, loosely based off of the design of their logo. Since the intent of the product was to help users with cognitive disabilities, I needed an icon design that was versatile, colorful, and easy to recognize. The app’s user base ranges from children to seniors, so the general feel needed to be friendly and bright enough for young users, high contrast enough for older users, but not too pediatric or geriatric that adults in the middle would feel uncomfortable.
We settled on the style that most closely aligned with Lingraphica’s logo design. This icon style allowed a lot of detail, while still remaining friendly and easy to understand at a glance.
Building the color wheel
Now that we had a style, I needed to develop a color system that allowed for all the variations across the brand, but limited enough to keep things consistent. This icon library could hypothetically grow to be an index of language itself… so the colors needed to be flexible enough that they could depict almost anything. I needed a color system that could hypothetically work for any concept.
This is a wheely good color palette. No added artificial food coloring or preservatives
The first set of icons were the essentials, which included the most common phrases and a list of foods. This was a good time to test my icon system and see how far I could take it conceptually. The team at Lingraphica was thrilled, and loved the vibrant, light-hearted personality the icons brought to the product.
I started churning out icons like Cheerios at a General Mills factory
One of the most difficult categories the team asked me to build were family relationships. These concepts included abstract relationships like “aunt”, “grandmother”, or even “sister-in-law”. These family relationships include variables like gender (male, female, and non-binary or indeterminate), family members connected via marriage, and descendants, all of which needed to be represented.
I came up with a system of communicating those relationships, but with the existing cognitive barrier that many Lingraphica users have, this system was considered too complicated and eventually scrapped. It was an important lesson that with highly abstract systems, visuals can only go so far in communication.
One benefit of building this system though was that it helped me dip my foot into building people, which was the next big task.
“Can you draw an icon for an ex-husband’s nephew’s fiancé?”
Who doesn’t love a character builder?
The Lingraphica team needed a system of avatars that users could pick as part of their profile. At the time, I suggested a sort of “character generator” that users could use to construct their own avatar, but that was out of scope for this iteration. So instead, I built a library of 100 figures that could cover as much of the population as possible. I included as much variety as I could, being mindful to include people of different skin tones, religious clothing, hair colors, body types, hair styles and textures, clothing choices, glasses, and facial hair.
I created a large variety of options in each of those categories, then built a random generator in Figma to rapidly iterate a baseline. Then I individually customized each individual with colors that seemed to suit the person’s personality.
The team also wanted versions that represented children and seniors. With a few alterations of the system, I was able to quickly create a new set of related characters that were simply a younger or older version of the adults.
The seasoned adults
Lingraphica needed images of occupations as well, so I created a system that included an outfitted character and a relevant modifier. I also developed a diverse roster of characters, then created a builder to quickly swap out the character. Because of the builder, if we ever want to add more characters to the roster, we can easily swap out the asset and produce a whole new collection in no time.
In illustration land, you can be anything you want without any of the student debt
Other icon sets
The team needed many more icon sets as well, including body parts, emotions, outlines of US states, medical equipment, national flags, and more, which accumulated to just over 500 assets.
In my final weeks of the contract, the team also required icons for the app’s UI. I created a style that was similar to the illustrations, but less detailed so that the illustrations and other images would stand out better.
In 4 months, I created a brand new icon and illustration style system from scratch, and delivered 1,501 individual concepts. Working at this scale was invigorating for me, so if you have a project that is similar in scope, please reach out! I’d love to help out.